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Posts tagged ‘Northern England’

Sunday Supplement ITALIA – Tuscany Wharf: 15km to San Gimignano

It’s ITALIA Season on the Daily Norm, celebrating, for at least two weeks, everything that’s fantastic about Italy. And to kick of the season, here on the Sunday Supplement, the weekly showcase of my art, I am featuring my 2010 painting, Tuscany Wharf: 15 km to San Gimignano. 

I was inspired to paint the scene when my Partner’s family and I were driving through the incredibly beautiful green and golden rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside. The journey, from Donoratico down on the coast up through the hills, past Volterra and on to San Gimignano involved so many curves and bends and meanders through the Tuscan countryside that when we reached a road sign advising us that after around 90 minutes of said meandering, we were finally within 15 km reach of our final destination, my Partner, whose face was very green by that point, breathed a huge sigh of relief, or as much of a sigh as could be mustered after a double dose of very soporific travel sickness tablets.

As we approached San Gimignano, a UNESCO world-heritage protected town, famous for its collection of medieval towers which grew taller with each new construction as rich merchant families sought to compete with one another, the view was better than ever. Approaching the town from some distance, seeing the iconic towers gradually emerging from behind the brow of a set of undulating hills, was quite a sight, and one which I have attempted to capture in my painting, which celebrates all the beauty of the Tuscan countryside from rows of perfectly lined up vineyards and golden fields with rolled up hay, to the curly-wurly road itself, rising and falling over and around the crests of hills, lined by cypress trees and Italian pines.

However what makes this representation of Tuscany different is that sliced through one part of the landscape is a vertical insight into another world. It’s industrial Northern England, a scene with such industrialised toxicity that the smoke bellowing out from the factory chimneys pour into the Tuscan scene, filling turquoise skies with a decided collection of clouds. The English scene, which was inspired by the works of L. S. Lowry, was inserted by way of marked contrast to the beauty of the Tuscan scenery. However both scenes appear to be in sync, as if they represent the same geography in a parallel universe. Where the tuscan hills roll upwards, the english scene follows the same trajectory, with a row of cramped terraced houses following the same incline of the Tuscan hill. Where in tuscany there is a round bail of hay, in the English scene, the bail of hay is replaced with a cylindrical oil container. Similarly the roses, planted next to a vineyard so the grape grower can detect disease early, is replaced by the barbed wire keeping trespassers off the industrial site. Thus it is that the two landscapes appear inescapably conflicting, and yet coexisting in perfect union.

Tuscany Wharf (15km to San Gimignano) (oil on canvas, 2010 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

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L.S. Lowry is coming to Tate Britain

I was thrilled by the news last week that Tate Britain will be honouring the work of frequently overlooked British industrial landscape painter L.S. Lowry from 25 June to 20 October 2013. The only frustration is that I have a whole year to wait until the spectacle hits London!

Lowry has long been one of my favourite British artists, ever since my parents purchased a tiny cottage in rural Isle of Wight almost 20 years ago, and along with the various odds and ends left in the cottage by the previous owner, there was a strangely gloomy yet enticing industrial scene hanging on the wall together with a group of funny little people walking around in the foreground.

L S Lowry, Street Scene (Pendlebury)

I was strangely fascinated by the image, which bared very little resemblance to the fresh, green bucolic landscape surrounding the cottage. Rather this industrial scene was rather bleak, in monotone shades of browns and greys, with vast forests of chimneys puffing smoke into the air in a continuous, unyielding fashion, while the workers all dressed in the same earthy tones looked the same – small cogs in a spiritless industrial machine. Despite its apparent despondency, the painting fascinated me, for it showed a snap shot of the humdrum of modern life, but in a style which was both naive but accessible. I had been introduced to Lowry, and I have been hooked ever since.

L S Lowry, A Market Place, Berwick upon Tweed (1935)

It is perhaps because of the naivety of Lowry’s draftsmanship, such as his figures, which are often referred to as “matchstick men” which has caused him to be relatively overlooked in the history of British art. I have often looked on amazon, for example, for a catalogue of Lowry’s oeuvre, but have found publications of his works to be woefully lacking. The only exhibitions I have attended of his works have been small scale sales of limited edition prints in private galleries, and I must have bemoaned the lack of a retrospective show of his work on at least a dozen occasions. It is therefore with great excitement that I await Tate’s show, and in the meantime fully intend to get everyone else excited by a small gallery below of some of Lowry’s works.

L S Lowry, Huddersfield (1965)

Bleak and grey as ever, the works rarely diversify from depicting scenes of industrialised Northern England where Lowry was born and worked and which, during the years of Queen Victoria’s reign had become a hub of industrialised growth leading to a population boom but a vast decrease in living conditions. Lowry demonstrates that England is not all lush green and pleasant lands as captured in works by Constable, or grand waterways and misty sea views as pronounced with such effect by Turner. Rather, these industrialised landscapes are typical of much of the country, even to this day, and Lowry’s paintings not only reflect upon the 20th century urban landscape, but also focus on the everyday lives of the ordinary masses. Yet in doing so, he rarely focuses on a single individual. Rather, through painting large groups, Lowry represents a typical city day for what it really is – large groups of people, all stripped of personality, as towns become influxed with workers, and the individual merges into one roving mass. Like the impressionists before him, Lowry is a proponent of the ordinary, but unlike the Manets and Degas of this world, Lowry depicts lives as most of us see them – crowds of faceless individuals, who represent statistics, but whose stories remain locked in the crowds.

L S Lowry, Industrial Landscape (1955)

L S Lowry, The Pond (1950)

L S Lowry, The Old House, Grove Street, Salford (1948)

L S Lowry, Coming out of School (1927)

Information of Tate’s forthcoming show can be found here.